Ephesians 1:15-23 A journey of discovery
September 12, 2011 1 Comment
Notes from sermon preached on 11th September 2011: Biblical Meditation 1
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” [Ephesians 1:17-18]
Over the next 6 weeks we are going to be following a course on Biblical meditation, using a small book called “Getting the best from the Bible” by Selwyn Hughes.
Biblical meditation has been described as one of the most neglected keys for Christian living.
Now, it might come as a surprise to you that meditation has got anything to do with Christianity at all! When we think of meditation we usually think of Eastern religions. However there is a lot in the Bible about meditation. For example,
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” [Psalm 1:1-2]
So the Psalms, the great hymn book of the Bible, starts off by encouraging us to meditate. Learning how to meditate will help us to get the best from the Bible. We are on a journey of discovery to discover the lost art of biblical meditation. We are going to look at 5 key truths this week to get us started.
Main Points: 5 key truths to get us started
1. The incarnation is the central message of the Bible
In the great salvation stories of the Bible it is God who comes to save his people. It is God who takes the initiative. In the greatest salvation story of all God sent the Living Word as human flesh, Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Saviour. There is nothing we can do to climb up to God Almighty, but He has come down in the person of his Son. This is at the heart of the Bible, and this is the key to opening up all its treasures.
Biblical meditation isn’t trying to find God, since God has already found us, like lost sheep. The only way we can ‘find God’ is by letting him find us in Jesus; through repentance from our sin, and inviting him into our lives by faith. We can only be brought into a relationship with God through Jesus, the Living Word, who loved us, and died for us for our salvation, and was raised to life that we may have new life with him.
Biblical meditation cannot save us, but it will help us to know God better, and help us to grow in our faith. We need to ask that God would give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation, and that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened through God’s word.
2. Biblical meditation is very different to practices of Eastern religions
Biblical meditation is very different from the practices of Eastern religions. How is it different?
I. Meditation in Eastern religions encourages you to empty your mind of everything with the hope then you might find God, or find peace. But Biblical meditation involves filling our minds with the thoughts of God which we find in the Bible. We realise it’s only the Prince of Peace who can bring us peace.
II. Eastern meditation often involves saying a mantra over and over again. However in Biblical meditation we focus on verses in the Bible. The psalmist in Psalm 1 delights in the law of the LORD, and on this law he meditates day and night. The law of the LORD is the Torah, the books of Moses, and it’s this he loves and meditates on all the time. We have more than the Torah, we have the whole Bible to meditate on.
III. Biblical meditation leads you towards God, whereas other forms of meditation actually lead you away from God.
Biblical meditation is biblical, in two senses. It is Biblical in the sense that it is a kind of meditation which is taught in the Bible. But it is also Biblical in the sense that it is meditation focused on the Bible.
3. Understanding the power of the Spirit is essential to Biblical meditation
The Christian life is supposed to be one of progress in spiritual maturity, and for this we need to understand the power of the Spirit. I would like to illustrate this from two verses in Isaiah.
Is 44:3-4 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.
Isaiah is using poetic language to describe the out pouring of the Spirit, on the thirsty land, on the dry ground of human lives. Then he describes the spiritual growth that comes as a result of this spiritual outpouring, “They will spring up like grass in a meadow.” Spiritual growth can take a long time, but here the grass “springs up”, it grows really quickly. Why is it that some people grow much more quickly in their spiritual life than others? It is because the word of God in their lives is watered by the out pouring of the Spirit – they understand the power of the Spirit in their lives.
Biblical meditation isn’t filling our minds with more knowledge, though it may do that as well. It’s allowing God to give us revelation and to open the eyes of our understanding, that we may know him better in our experience. Jesus once said to the religious leaders, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” [John 5:39-40]
Biblical meditation isn’t just about studying the Scriptures, though that is good. It’s about receiving the life of God through the words of God. It’s about feeling the Breath of His Spirit as we listen to the Word from His mouth!
We need the Word and the Spirit.
4. Biblical meditation keeps us on an even keel despite our circumstances
The best news to begin the new day with isn’t found on the TV or newspaper, it is found in the Bible, to think God’s thoughts after Him. As Christians we must learn to allow the Bible to direct our thinking … obviously we don’t have to (!) … but to live a balanced Christian life, the life of faith, we do have to … otherwise we will be like the stock market, up one day and down the next. We will be like a small boat on the high seas, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching [Ephesians 4:14], or whatever supposedly new teaching happens to come along.
The gospel is the word of truth, the truth as it is found in Jesus, because Jesus is the Truth. It’s a truth which sets us free; it’s a truth we are to have buckled round our waist like a belt. It’s a truth God desires all people may come to knowledge of to be saved. But where do we find this truth? We find it in the whole Bible.
Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith, about Hymenaeus and Philetus. We don’t know who they were or much about them, except what Paul says.
… they “have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.” [2Ti 2:18]
There are two things we know about Hymenaeus and Philetus. First, they themselves had swerved from the truth as it is found in Jesus; and secondly, they have become false teachers, and so were upsetting the faith of those who were insecure in their faith.
Biblical meditation helps to keep us on an even keel despite our circumstances. The best way to start every day is with 5 or 10 minutes or longer if possible – with God. Learning about biblical meditation will help you to do this.
5. The Bible contains words, which when meditated upon, yield tremendous spiritual power
Many of us read the Bible; some of us may even study it – we have a weekly Bible study, which is starting this week, on the book of Genesis. Some of may even memorize parts of the Bible.
But meditation goes a step further. Meditation makes the Bible come alive in our experience. And this has largely been lost in the church. According to the latest statistics only 35% of Christians in the West read their Bible’s regularly. With so much access the Bible, why is this? I think one of the reasons is that the Bible is not alive in our experience. If a book is boring and irrelevant to us we won’t read it much. But if our reading of the Bible brings us spiritually alive, if it gives us spiritual peace and poise, then we will want to read it more and more.
To quote from page 18 of “How to get the best from the Bible,” “Biblical meditation is different from reading, studying and memorising the Bible. The former are primarily intellectual exercises that bring spiritual results, but meditation is a way in which the Word of God is carried direct to our spirit, where He can accomplish the great work of transforming our lives.”
However we might understand the Bible as the Word of God, and Christians understand it in different ways, somehow the words of the Bible contain the life of the Author, the life of God which Jesus came to give us abundantly [see John 10:10]. Listen to this proverb:
“My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight; keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to a man’s whole body.” [Proverbs 4:20-22]
This shows us that words of the Bible contain spiritual life, and when we meditate on them that life is released into our spirit, and even gives health to our whole body like medicine.
Selwyn Hughes says, “The Bible contains words and says which when meditated upon yield tremendous spiritual power.”
Jesus knew the power of the living word of God in his experience. He used the scriptures when he was tempted in the wilderness by the devil, for example:
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” [Matthew 4:4]
But it’s not just about quoting a bible verse or two that makes the difference; what makes the difference is to know the truth of life of God contained within the word. This is what makes it so powerful.
This week we have started a journey of discovery. We have looked at 5 key truths to get us started:
- The incarnation is the central message of the Bible
- Biblical meditation is very different to practices of Eastern religions
- Understanding the power of the Spirit is essential to Biblical meditation
- Biblical meditation keeps us on an even keel despite our circumstances
- The Bible contains words, which when meditated upon, yield tremendous spiritual power
For some this is completely new; but even if not, to renew our familiarity with the teaching on Biblical Meditation can be very refreshing.